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An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: Sex and Lucia (2001)

PUBLISHED: 18:18 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:02 25 July 2018

Paz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

Paz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

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Films with re-watch value, movies with a unique quality, will become the classics of the future. Arts editor Andrew Clarke presents a series of idiosyncratic suggestions for movies that may entertain if you are in the mood for something different.

Paz Vega with co-star Tristan Ulloa in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro TartanPaz Vega with co-star Tristan Ulloa in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

Sex and Lucia dir: Julio Medem; starring: Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freyre, Elena Anaya, Silvia Llanos, Javier Camara. Cert: 18 (2001)

The problem with a lot of so-called erotic films is that they don’t seem to be very sexy or indeed interesting. Usually film-makers are so intent on squeezing so much groundbreaking nudity and sex into as many scenes as they can that they forget to make a coherent film.

They don’t seem to have grasped the concept that our biggest sex organ is the brain. In many films (don’t mention 50 Shades of Grey) they seem to have only a passing interest in character development or narrative structure.

Paz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro TartanPaz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

They don’t realise for the audience to be aroused their imaginations have to be engaged and they have to be brought into the story. They have to relate to the characters. They have to be intrigued by the situation and just like any other film want to have to spend time in the company of the people on the screen.

Happily, occasionally a great erotic film comes along and more often than not it hails from Europe rather than Hollywood. This is probably because European films are made for a broad age range whereas the economics of Hollywood require movies aim for a teens and 20s audience.

Sex and Lucia is not really interested in a teenage audience. It is a film about loss, obsession and the tangled emotions that arise between lovers when they discover that their lives aren’t as straight forward as they supposed.

Paz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro TartanPaz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

Written and directed by Spanish film-maker Julio Medem, Sex and Lucia isn’t a straight-forward film but it does seduce you and ensnare you in a complex and, at times, rather convoluted story but by the time that things get slightly bizarre you are so engrossed in Lucia’s journey that you are happy to just go with the events as they unfold.

Julio Medem, like his fellow countryman, Pedro Almodovar, likes to create films about people and how they deal with relationships which are being pushed to the limits. He created critically acclaimed erotic dramas, Lovers of the Arctic Circle and Room in Rome, before and after Sex and Lucia but this latter film is his greatest achievement to date.

Paz Vega delivers an exposing but equally sparkling performance as Lucia, a waitress who discovers early on in the film that her boyfriend has been killed in an accident. He is Lorenzo (Tristan Ulloa). Distraught, she goes to an island he often talked about, and there she meets Carlos (Daniel Freire), a scuba diver who steers her toward a guest house occupied by Elena (Najwa Nimri).

Paz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro TartanPaz Vega makes her big screen debut as the eponymous waitress in the Spanish erotic classic Sex and Lucia. Photo: Metro Tartan

It appears that Lorenzo is a novelist and all of a sudden we are transported back six years to their first meeting. Lucia tells him she admires his novel and they become passionate lovers, but things turn sour when he gets bogged down in that difficult second novel. It is at this point that events and the identity of characters start becoming fluid.

Vega holds the film together with her genuinely engaging personality. There is a wonderful sense of passion and connection between her and her lovers and a messy abandon in her love-making which puts the carefully shot, incredibly artificial, ‘soft-porn’ movies turned out by Hollywood to shame. Here, you believe you are witnessing genuine desire.

Medem brings a terrific sense of style to the photography. Once the action moves to the Mediterranean island, at the height of summer, all the visuals have that sun-drenched, slightly over exposed, dreamscape to them.

Because of flashbacks and time jumps, you can’t help but wonder whether what you are seeing is real? Is it a passage lifted from Lorenzo’s novel or wild imaginings summoned up by Lucia’s grief? Or maybe, it is real… Sex and Lucia is certainly one of the most inventive and erotic films you are ever likely to see.

There is plenty of nudity, both male and female, but it is never gratuitous. The sex serves the story in exactly the same way that a gun-fight or battle-scene drives the narrative forward in an action movie or a perilous situation reveals something about the hero or villain in a thriller.

It’s also not a po-faced film either. There’s a wonderful sense of fun about it. Vega delivers a radiant performance and the sex, for once, is exhilarating. These sorts of films are hard to get right but every once in a while something like this comes along and you realise that it is not only possible to make a genuinely erotic movie but make an erotic movie that has integrity.

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